Thankfulness In The Argument Culture


Broncos linebackerI’m a dye-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan, a political conservative, a Christian. Occasionally I visit some Broncos fan blogs and interact with others who are passionate about the Broncos. Inevitably, though, someone will say something that reminds me, not all these people who love the Broncos like I do, love God the way I do or even like Him. And probably a lot aren’t political conservatives.

Yet if we were in the stands at a Broncos game, we’d be cheering them on as loud as we could. Together. And when the opposing quarterback fails to complete a pass, we’d yell in unison with the rest of the fans, In-com-plete. That’s what you do when your team has the No Fly Zone as your secondary.

The point here is this: football fans lay aside their differences when they come together to cheer for their favorite team. The only differences that count at that moment are between those in orange and anyone wearing the opponent’s jersey.

My guess is, football fans don’t let religion or politics divide them because they don’t discuss the topics. But in the argument culture, our opinions have begun to divide us.

Things are becoming extreme in a land built on the right of free speech and freedom of religious expression. Now when people speak publicly, someone is bound to be offended and to call for a free zone.

The common approach is for someone to express their view. A commenter then tells them how stupid their ideas are. Then a third party will call the commenter a name and the commenter will cuss out both the original writer and the third party. It could go on from there, but it likely will end up with someone unfriending someone else.

Because in all likelihood, people who read blog posts or Facebook updates are doing so at sites they mostly agree with. When someone of a different viewpoint projects a new idea, it rarely sparks meaningful dialogue. Rather, the ensuing discussion is apt to be filled with vitriol and a repetition of talking points which originated somewhere else. Things like, Donald Trump is not my president. Or Hillary (her critics hardly ever use her last name and certainly not her appropriate title) is a liar. And, Black lives matter. Or, All lives matter.

Welcome to the argument culture we have created. What is substantive in the slogans we throw at each other?

Even “reputable” news outlets seem more interested in headlines that will get readers to click over to their site than they are in fairly representing the story or the people in it. Click bait. We’ve apparently proven we’re vulnerable to certain emotive words that will prompt us to action, so the “news” sites use those words with gusto.

First_Thanksgiving_in_AmericaThen along comes Thanksgiving Day.

Suddenly we’re suppose to pause, to relax, to hang out with family, to think about the things we’re thankful for.

In truth Thanksgiving calls Christians to do what we should be doing all year long. Even in an argument culture, we are called to be different. This is what Paul told the Roman Christians:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Rom 12:14-21 NASB]

These were believers who weren’t simply at odds with others because of how they voted. No, they were living in fear for their lives. They weren’t simply being unfriended on Facebook. They were being hauled off to be part of Caesar’s massacre.

Yet Paul says, weep with those who weep. Don’t celebrate the downfall of your enemy. If he’s hungry, thirsty, serve him. Don’t take justice into your own hands. Make a difference by doing all you can to be at peace with the very people who hate you. Don’t stoop to their tactics, but conquer their vitriol with God’s gentleness.

Are these the features that mark the Church? Is this what the world knows about us?

It should be. We are new creatures in Christ, so we ought not live like everyone else.

One of the ways I want to put this passage into practice is by being thankful. You see, despite the fractured nature of our culture, we still have a great deal to thank God for.

I lost a friend this year—a woman nearly ten years my junior, so her death seems especially wrong. But I am genuinely thankful that I will see her again. It might seem cliché to some, but I can look each of my Christian friends in the eye and say, See you later, knowing that I will, either here or in life after this life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for that assurance. So thankful that Jesus Christ made it possible.

Politics and hurt feelings and misunderstanding might make relationships hard at times. But death is the ultimate divider. If we think our culture is fractured, that’s nothing compared to the last line, when people stand for or against God. Now that’s a division.

The fact that I can shake hands with the man at church who has terminal cancer and say, see you later, indicates that God through Christ has conquered the divide. He is the great uniter.

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Lessons Learned On The Football Field


Broncos linebackerToday is the beginning of the NFL preseason. The Broncos have traveled to Chicago and take on the team under the direction of their old coach, John Fox. So it seems fitting to revisit an article from a few years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget a play that happened in the Ravens-Broncos NFL season opener a few years ago. As it turned out, it had no bearing on the result of the game, but I suspect it had great impact on the young man involved.

Danny Trevathan, a second-year Denver Broncos linebacker [who has moved on through free agency, to Chicago, no less], made a remarkable play on a pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jumping the pass route, intercepting the pass, and racing to the end zone.

Trouble is, in his enthusiasm to begin his celebration dance, he dropped the ball before he crossed into the end zone. What should have been an easy Denver touchdown turned into a touch back, giving the Ravens the ball again on the 20 yard line.

Fortunately for the Broncos and for Danny Trevathan, the game wasn’t close, and there wasn’t enough time left for the Ravens to mount a comeback. But that kind of play is often one of those momentum changers.

The thing is, Danny Trevathan really had made a great play. It was a third down, with the Ravens driving and perhaps just enough time on the clock for them to at least make the game respectable if they could score and then recover an onside kick.

But after making his terrific, timely interception, Danny didn’t wait for others to praise him. He went for the glory himself, and in the process robbed himself of the very thing he sought.

I couldn’t help but think of a number of verses in Scripture that tell us pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Besides Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, David talks about God abasing “haughty eyes,” James declares God’s attitude toward pride, and Peter repeats the same thing in an extended version:

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Sadly Danny Trevathan apparently hasn’t learned the principle of letting others praise you and not your own mouth. Apparently he hasn’t learned that God abases the kind of pride he was ready to display.

But what a fortunate guy. True, his blooper happened in front of a national television audience, but it didn’t cost the Broncos the game. And it happened in a game. I mean, football is big business, and all, but it didn’t happen in a venue where people’s lives hinged on what he did or failed to do.

Plus, he gets to learn a valuable lesson that just might last a lifetime. In truth, this lesson could influence his entire worldview. Might it even be an opening for him to learn about God’s attitude toward pride? Now that would make Danny Trevathan a real winner . . . in spite of dropping the ball on the one foot line.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in September 2013.

Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Preparing For The Super Bowl


Denver_Broncos2In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos went about their business in the same way that they had each of the previous weeks of the 2015 season and playoffs. Over and over coach Gary Kubiak would answer media questions by saying the team was focused on this week’s opponent.

No, they didn’t think about who would be the quarterback in the playoffs or even next week, for example. They had determined who would be the quarterback this week and they were preparing accordingly.

Of course the pre-Super Bowl activities challenged their resolve. As player after player met the media, they fielded questions about how it felt to be such a big underdog, whether or not Peyton Manning was going to retire, whether switching quarterbacks had caused friction in the locker room and many more.

Repeatedly they said they were staying in the moment, enjoying the experiences of the Super Bowl activities, but preparing for the game.

BroncosCelebrationNot all the players made it. One young man who was on the practice squad was caught up in a prostitution sting. Though he wasn’t charged by the police, the team sent him home. He wasn’t on the same page with the others. Consequently he lost out. When the Broncos took control of the game and beat the highly favored Carolina Panthers, that young man was not on the sidelines. I don’t know if he was included in yesterday’s parade in Denver before a million fans.

What he did was a betrayal of his team. He lost his focus and involved himself in some of the very distractions the coaches had warned them to avoid.

But here’s the thing. What the Denver Broncos went through, particularly during those last two weeks before the Super Bowl, when the distractions were ramped up to an incredible height, mirrors what the Christian experiences day after day.

We’re in the same kind of grind that the Broncos were in. Out of sight, behind closed doors, we prepare our hearts before God, then we face the day, with all of its challenges and temptations and distractions. We have a prize we’re going for, but in the long haul, we need to stay focused and keep our minds set on things above, not on things on the earth.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

We’re playing for the reward of the inheritance, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We celebrate the victory Christ has already won, but we also buffet our body and train our minds. We focus on the things above because we are saved and are being saved.

In essence, we’ve won through Christ but now we must go out and play the game.

I’m mindful of Joshua and the people of Israel as the walls of Jericho fell. What a wondrous miracle of God. And yet, Israel still had to conquer the city. There was still a battle to be won.

In the same way, the Christian can bask in the victory Christ has procured for us. But nevertheless, we have battles to fight—against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life. Against ourselves, against Satan and his forces, against the world and its pull.

We’d be wise, then, to adopt the plan of the Denver Broncos—stay in the moment, do what today calls for us to do. It sounds quite existential. But the point is, we really only have this moment. The past is gone and can’t be changed. We have no promise of tomorrow. If we are to press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, we must do so today. Now. With our focus firmly set against the distractions that would pull us away from the things above.

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm  Comments Off on Preparing For The Super Bowl  
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Things Aren’t Always The Way They Seem (Or How The Broncos Beat The Patriots)


Peyton_Manning_Throwing_TD509I’m a big Denver Broncos football fan (and a sports nut in general, as you may know). I was born in Denver but have lived most of my life in Southern California. Even when we had football teams here, as we are apparently positioned to have again, I was still a Broncos fan.

It goes back to my college days, I guess, when my parents lived in Denver and I would spend the summer there. Summers, as you may know, mean football training camp and the beginning of the preseason. The Broncos were the first major league team in any sport in Denver, so the city has a huge love affair with the team. Consequently, any football news, and certainly training camp qualifies, was front and center in Denver during those summer months I was there. It was infectious.

At any rate, the Broncos just won the American Football Conference championship, sending them to the Super Bowl in two weeks to play against the National Football Conference champion Carolina Panthers.

For weeks now, the experts who make predictions about games have been picking against the Broncos. They had their stats to back up their decision. One that was repeated over and over was that Peyton Manning, the Broncos quarterback, had only thrown nine touchdown passes and seventeen interceptions.

It was a true stat. But what no one said was that Peyton was hurt for the first two months of the season, until he finally missed six weeks while he got treatment. Turns out he had been dealing for months with plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. Because he continued to play on it, he eventually experienced a tear. The treatment was to have his foot immobilized for two weeks—along with who knows what in his rehab phase.

When Peyton came back in the middle of the final week of the season, the experts nevertheless reported that only Peyton’s knowledge and experience were valuable to the team, that what he contributed physically was a liability. Even when the Broncos beat Pittsburgh in the Division Playoffs, Peyton was criticized more than he was praised. He was a game manager now, the experts said, and that label was meant as disrespect.

After all, the once great quarterback who set records—more touchdowns in one year than anyone in history, and the like—was now dependent on a running game. How the mighty have fallen!

In truth, the experts said, Peyton couldn’t run the new coach’s offense because it required him to make throws he could no longer make. He couldn’t run the bootleg and he couldn’t throw long and he couldn’t throw to the sidelines.

So you see, the Broncos simply could not generate enough offense to win a game against a player such as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Until, of course, Peyton threw a touchdown of twenty-one yards and another one to the back corner of the end zone, and until he ran twelve yards for a first down.

Peyton_Manning_2014Was he the “old Peyton”? The one who set all those records two years ago? No. From what I understand, plantar fasciitis takes considerably longer to heal, so I have no doubt that he’s still not one hundred percent healthy. Just a whole lot better than he had been.

But here’s the point. When everyone was looking at Peyton’s seventeen interceptions—and those coming in ten games instead of the full complement of sixteen, they made a determination about what kind of performance they’d see from him during Championship Sunday. They didn’t realize the stats lied because they were about the performance of an injured Peyton Manning, not a healthier player who engineered the win against New England.

The same was true about the Patriots and Tom Brady. Their stats were the opposite of Peyton’s. Tom was on a mission and was playing his best ball of his career. Except those stats came mostly against teams that didn’t make the playoffs, against defenses that weren’t ferocious.

Tom Brady is a good quarterback . . . maybe even a great quarterback . . . but people were making judgments about how he would perform on Sunday based on what he’d done against lesser defenses.

So here’s the bottom line. Appearances aren’t everything. And sometimes stats can lie. If I told you I won ten out of ten one-on-one basketball games against my neighbor’s son, you might think, Wow, she can still play. But what if you found out my neighbor’s son was six? Uh, the stats can lie.

Things really aren’t as they seem, at least not always. It’s an important point I think, because we tend to be a society preoccupied with appearance and eager to jump on bandwagons. Oh, we say, the experts have all these stats that point to the Patriots steamrolling the Broncos, so that’s surely what will happen.

But it didn’t.

Maybe there’s a lesson for life in there. Maybe we should all be willing to look a little deeper than that first stat line.

Published in: on January 25, 2016 at 6:37 pm  Comments (8)  
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Hope Isn’t Wishful Thinking


AdventWreathLitLast Sunday night I hoped the Denver Broncos would defeat the New England Patriots in a National Football League game. (They did! 😉 ) I had no certainty that they would. Yes, the game was played in Denver (home field is always a big advantage in the NFL) and yes, New England (as the announcers interminably reminded the watching audience) had a number of offensive players hurt. And yes, the Patriots were playing at altitude on a short week of rest. But those factors did not guarantee Denver a win. I still hoped, not knowing how it would all turn out.

In many respects, you could say my position was one of wishful thinking. Not that my wishing could have any bearing on the outcome, but I had no certain knowledge and merely wished that the result I wanted would be the one that prevailed.

Happily it did!

But my hoping for a Denver victory on Sunday night is about as far from the hope a Christian has as possible, given the similarity in the dictionary definitions. The Bible links hope and faith in Hebrews 11:1 and both have nothing to do with “hoping against hope” or wishful thinking.

Rather, the writer specifies that faith is tied to assurance and hope to conviction.

Assurance. Conviction.

There’s a certainty about both those words. They remind me of Elisha’s position when his city was surrounded by an enemy army and he told his servant not to be afraid.

Uh, seriously, Elisha? I think there’s good cause to be afraid.

Except, Elisha saw what his servant didn’t—the host of heaven amassed against the enemy. So Elisha wasn’t making a foolish statement, and he wasn’t hoping against hope that things would turn out all right. He wasn’t exercising wishful thinking in the face of insurmountable odds. He was, in fact, exercising faith. He had the assurance that God’s army outnumbered the enemy. He had the hope built on conviction that God would not forsake him.

Even though outwardly nothing had changed. From where his servant sat, their situation couldn’t have been worse. They didn’t have the arms or the men to fight against the enemy and they didn’t have the resources to withstand a siege. All seemed lost.

It’s that “seemed” word that makes all the difference, because how things seem apart from God aren’t actually how they are.

Things undoubtedly seemed bleak to very-pregnant Mary when she had to follow Joseph to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, running for their lives with her little son. How could she know that for centuries people all across the globe would read about those frightening, uncomfortable, dangerous trips and give God glory because of His protection and care, because of fulfilled prophecy, because of the evidence of the humility of God’s Son, born in a manger, on the run before He could even walk.

Did Mary have hope? Did she envision herself raising her infant to become a man? To become the Savior of the World? That night I imagine she had hope despite the pain of childbirth. After all, the angel had told her she would bear a son. He wouldn’t lie. So she had assurance that this birth, even in a stable, would bring little Jesus into the world. And yet, she still had to bear the pain. She still had to run for her life when the angel told them to flee to Egypt. And she still had to witness her son die on a cross.

Hope is not wishful thinking. And it is not assurance that all will be without trouble or pain. But hope, when placed in God and His Son Jesus, gives what we all need: assurance that our sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb, that God has adopted us into His family, that we are no longer under condemnation, that God has given us His mercy and grace, and that we have a future to look forward to.

There’s a verse in Jeremiah that all too often is misused. Jeremiah is assuring the people of Judah who have been exiled to Babylon that God has not forgotten them, that they have a future and a hope despite the fact that they’ve been captured. This is not a promise of perfect health and untold wealth as some assume. But Christians can claim this promise for what it is: God’s declaration that our destiny is in His hands.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

We may face “captivity” in the here and now, but we have the hope of heaven—the assurance of things not yet seen, the conviction that He who promised is able to bring it to pass.

Published in: on December 4, 2015 at 7:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Winning And Losing


Clayton_Kershaw_2010This past week has been filled with sports for someone like me who follows most sports and cheers for the teams in the LA area. Oh, and a Denver Broncos fan, too.

We had two teams in the Major League Baseball playoffs, USC football played on Saturday and a few hours later UCLA played as well. Then on Sunday the Broncos played in the afternoon.

The results of the eight games were mixed. First the Angels, after losing the opening game of their series against Kansas City in overtime, got swept out of the playoffs. Next the Dodgers, after taking a 6-1 lead behind the probable Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, ended up losing their opening game, 10-9.

At the same time, USC lost the game against Arizona St. after leading most of the way when they gave up a “hail Mary” touchdown as time ran out. UCLA, having crushed Arizona St. last week, faced Utah. They trailed most of the game, took the lead late in the fourth quarter, then gave up a field goal in the last seconds and lost.

So when does the winning start? Well, the Dodgers came back in their game two and won to even their series with St. Louis. Then the Broncos came through yesterday to hand the Arizona Cardinals their first loss of the season. Still, that’s a lot of losing in just a short period of time.

But here’s the truth about winning and losing: it’s transient. The team that wins in February will begin a new season in September and have to do it all over again. There is no permanent winner—at least not when we’re talking about sports or business or the lottery or contests or anything else you might expect to find a winner.

The Heisman Trophy winner receives the accolades for his accomplishment, but the next year either returns to school or starts a career as a rookie football player or as a newbie in a different field. In other words, people won’t pay him for life because he won the Heisman Trophy in 2014.

In that respect, wins and losses are equal. Once they are over, they are memories. Sure, wins are most likely happy memories and losses may be painful, but here’s the truth. What lasts is what a person learns through the experience.

Players can learn more through the experiences of winning and losing then can fans, I would think. Fans are emotionally invested but incapable of affecting the outcome of a game. Maybe the greatest lesson for a fan is to hold games loosely. After all, only one team will walk away as the World Series champs.

Most teams when they celebrate with a parade down their city streets end up making some sort of statement about the next year—usually something like, Let’s do this again next year. In other words, they understand another season awaits in which the just-completed championship win will mean nothing.

So why do we try to win video games or chess matches or employee-of-the-year prizes or bridal-shower games or . . . you name it? Winning validates our abilities or our emotional connection or city association with a team. But because of the nature of winning and losing, we’re quickly right back where we were, wondering again if we’re good enough, smart enough, talented enough.

As the fans of the New England Patriots. After getting blown out by Kansas City a week ago, fans and media pundits were questioning whether or not their highly touted coach and quarterback could still get it done. Was Tom Brady over the hill, they asked? Would the coach consider a change at that position? Of course all those questions went away when the Patriots dominated Cincinnati Sunday night.

So what’s the point? Winning and losing are both temporal. They need to be held with an open hand. A false view of winning leads to pride and a false view of losing leads to despair, which is really the flip side of pride. Both are exaggerated views of self.

The only thing that lasts is what we do for the kingdom of God. The rest ends up being the wood, hay, and stubble Scripture says will burn up. The eternal things are good works as simple as giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty stranger.

Those things God promises to reward, and His “well done, good and faithful servant, last for eternity.

In the end, the only winning that matters is that which Jesus Christ accomplished in His work at the cross where He triumphed over sin and death, over His enemies, over guilt and the law. As Corrie ten Boom loved to say, Jesus is Victor.

Being His follower is the only sure thing out there. We can’t be sure if we’ll have a job tomorrow or if we’ll arrive home safely after work or if we have cancer cells growing in our body or will get bit by a mosquito with West Nile Virus or will fall and break an ankle or a wrist trying to stop our fall. We expect things to go the way we consider “normal”—without glitches or interruptions or anomalies. And God graciously gives us what we need day after day, even as He gave manna to the people of Israel six out of seven days for forty years!

But there are those days when we’re out of water or a river separates us from where we’re going or giants are in the land or thick walls obstruct us from what we plan to accomplish. In those instances, we need to keep our perspective. God is still the Victor. The circumstances that appear daunting or even “terminal” do not change who God is or what His Son has done.

Winning and losing both, even in things as trivial as MLA playoff games, give us an opportunity to remember what’s eternal, what real winning looks like (that would be the sinless Son of God hanging on a cross for our benefit).

And you thought watching sports was just a fun thing to do! 😉

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm  Comments Off on Winning And Losing  
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Finishing Strong


US_men's_soccer_team_trains_in_NJ_2010-05-20When I coached, especially basketball, I often talked to my team about finishing. It’s great to jump out to a big league, but if you let down, if you start to go easy, your lead can evaporate and you end up in a close contest which you can easily lose. I’ve had teams lose by any manner of lucky shots, such as the three-pointer which ricocheted off the backboard and into the net.

Even more certain that lucky shots can win games is a sport like soccer or hockey. Ask the Anaheim Ducks who lost to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the LA Kings. They gave up a goal in the closing seconds of regulation and eventually lost in overtime.

Or ask the US World Cup soccer team who just yesterday gave up a goal in the closing seconds of extra time—time added on because of delays during regulation. After 94 minutes and 30 seconds, playing in the heat and humidity of the Amazon jungle, the US led 2-1. After 95 minutes, they were tied.

Some players, to be sure, were playing to finish, but others appeared to be going through the motions. The ESPN radio announcers accused Portugal of going through the motions. In fact, he said they already had their bags packed. Yikes, I thought. I didn’t see it that way. They were still playing hard, still challenging for the ball in midfield, and winning it far too often. All the US had to do was possess the ball for one minute. All they had to do was play keep-away. All they had to do was finish.

How like life games are. I’ve thought of that many, many times, even calling sports a microcosm in which much of the human experience is played out: success and failure, team work, integrity, discipline, attitudes toward authority, toward an opponent, jealousy, contentment, hard work, trust, obedience, humility. And finishing.

I hadn’t thought about finishing until yesterday’s tie. But how interesting to realize that sports teams don’t reach the end of a game and retire the way chess players do. A team losing badly still needs to play. A team winning big still needs to play. Those ahead in the score can’t assume they know what the final score will be simply because they’re up big at half time.

Painfully I recall my Denver Broncos being up big against the Indianapolis Colts at half time, then losing that game.

Those losing can’t assume they have no chance.

Just this hockey season, the Kings were down 0 games to 3 in a best-of-seven series. The San Jose Sharks couldn’t finish. The Kings took the next four games and advanced to the second round. In their game seven against Chicago, they fell behind by two goals, but they didn’t stop playing. They finished. And their efforts put them into the Stanley Cup finals.

So why does our society say people reaching sixty-five should pack it in and go on an extended vacation? Why should people who have gained wisdom and understanding and knowledge and experience not be expected to finish and to finish well?

To those who have been given much, much will be required—except apparently not of older folk. But why not?

Oh, sure, the hockey player will one day need to step aside from the game he loves and has excelled in. And so shall all retired folk. The day will come, apart from the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we will all step aside from this life. But up until that moment, ought we not to be giving life our all?

“Our all” might be little more than serving as a prayer warrior for others on the front line of our faith, but that’s a significant role and ought not be disparaged. I would love to see every retired person more involved in prayer than in daytime TV.

We can finish and we can finish well. And the difference between going all out and easing up as the seconds tick toward the final whistle just might be significant.

Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments Off on Finishing Strong  
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Suffering Humiliating Losses


women's basketball_2009_free-throwIn my playing and coaching days, I’ve had my share of humiliating losses. A handful pop into mind without any effort. There was the college basketball game I played in against our arch rivals. At 5’6” I was my team’s center, going up against a girl who was 6’1” or 6’2”. As I recall, the final score was 72-12.

Of course, the losses I’m talking about weren’t on a big stage with millions of people watching. In fact, there are probably more people who learned about the humiliating loss I just mentioned from reading this blog post than from watching in the stands that day.

Not so for my poor Denver Broncos who suffered one of the all time humiliating losses yesterday in the Super Bowl. After having set records for points scored and touch down passes in a season, they managed only eight points.

Tim Tebow could have added to his reasons for being glad he doesn’t have a contract (see Super Bowl commercials), that he doesn’t have to deal with humiliating Denver or Jet losses. (See Denver’s 2011 round two game against New England and New Jersey’s entire 2012 season.)

In some ways, all teams, except the champion Seattle Seahawks, suffered humiliating losses since they either didn’t make the playoffs or ended their season on a loss. Oakland, for example, suffered a humiliating season, as did the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets didn’t do much better, and Buffalo is . . . well, Buffalo—always promising and improved, but rarely reaching the playoffs.

But the playoff teams, from New Orleans and San Francisco to New England and Kansas City, all ended in a bitter loss that will stick with them throughout the off season.

Be that as it may, losing from the first snap in the Super Bowl has got to be a record. I wonder what the Christians on the Broncos are thinking. What does God want them to learn from this experience?

I know when I was playing and losing, I was mostly happy just because I enjoyed being on the court. I never intended to play college basketball. We didn’t have a team in my freshman or sophomore year, and most of us had no experience other than p. e. We had coaches that specialized in softball, so we weren’t getting a great deal of instruction. The point being, I was having fun even when we lost. The humiliating loss was harder to take, but I could say at the end that I tried my best and certainly none of us quit.

As a coach, the humiliating losses were ones that surprised me. I thought we were going to play better and didn’t.

There were some other really lopsided losses, but those were in a tournament when my high school freshmen went up against stronger, older teams, and it was clear we were over matched and probably should never have been put in the tournament in the first place. Those were easier to take, especially when the opponents started giving my girls pointers right there on the court during the game! 😉

I remember one coach when I was coaching middle school who used a full court press even when her team was up by thirty points. Those losses didn’t feel humiliating as much as infuriating. Their coach then wondered why the team she faced in the playoffs went into a ball-control stall (we didn’t play with a shot clock) even though they were down by fifteen points. None of the other coaches had trouble understanding. That other team was doing their best to avoid a humiliating loss. They could take a loss because the opponent was better. They just didn’t want to lose by thirty points or more.

Here’s what I take from blowout losses: they may or may not be humiliating. Whether they are or not depends on why you’re playing, who’s watching, how much effort you gave.

For the Christian, I think it’s key to keep in mind that we are always to be playing (or working) for God, that He is the one who is watching, that He is the one who will strengthen our weakness (in other words, when we’ve done our best, God can turn our effort into whatever success He wishes).

First, we are to serve God. Ephesians 6:7 says, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” This was not addressed to athletes but to “slaves,” those in the Greek culture who were indentured servants to work at the behest of their masters. But the masters weren’t to be the ones these Christians worked for. God was the one for whom they worked.

Paul elaborated in his letter to the Colossians:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

There you have it in a nutshell. Our efforts should not be for the applause of people but because we revere our King eternal. He’s the one watching and He’s the one supplying the strength. And this is true for us work-a-day folks as much as it is for athletes.

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 6:31 pm  Comments (1)  
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Lessons Learned On The Football Field


Broncos linebackerI don’t think I’ll ever forget a play that happened last night in the Ravens-Broncos NFL opening-season game. As it turned out, it had no bearing on the result of the game, but I suspect it had great impact on the young man involved.

Danny Trevathan, a second-year Denver Broncos linebacker, made a remarkable play on a pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jumping the pass route, intercepting the pass, and racing to the end zone.

Trouble is, in his enthusiasm to begin his celebration dance, he dropped the ball before he crossed into the end zone. What should have been an easy Denver touchdown turned into a touch back, giving the Ravens the ball again on the 20 yard line.

Fortunately for the Broncos and for Danny Trevathan, the game wasn’t close, and there wasn’t enough time left for the Ravens to mount a comeback. But that kind of play is often one of those momentum changers.

The thing is, Danny Trevathan really had made a great play. It was a third down, with the Ravens driving and perhaps just enough time on the clock for them to at least make the game respectable if they could score and then recover an onside kick.

But after making his terrific, timely interception, Danny didn’t wait for others to praise him. He went for the glory himself, and in the process robbed himself of the very thing he sought.

I couldn’t help but think of a number of verses in Scripture that tell us pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Besides Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, David talks about God abasing “haughty eyes,” James declares God’s attitude toward pride, and Peter repeats the same thing in an extended version:

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Sadly Danny Trevathan apparently hasn’t learned the principle of letting others praise you and not your own mouth. Apparently he hasn’t learned that God abases the kind of pride he was ready to display.

But what a fortunate guy. True, his blooper happened in front of a national television audience, but it didn’t cost the Broncos the game. And it happened in a game. I mean, football is big business, and all, but it didn’t happen in a venue where people’s lives hinged on what he did or failed to do.

Plus, he gets to learn a valuable lesson that just might last a lifetime. In truth, this lesson could influence his entire worldview. Might it even be an opening for him to learn about God’s attitude toward pride? Now that would make Danny Trevathan a real winner . . . in spite of dropping the ball on the one foot line.

Published in: on September 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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It’s Inspiring To Lose?


Al Davis, the former owner of the Oakland Raiders, was famous, not just for his knowledge of football and his iron-fisted rule of his team, but for his attitude toward winning. His statement “Just win, baby,” was his version of the adage “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

The Raider theme during their short stay in Los Angeles was “Commitment to excellence,” but seemingly Davis ranked winning even higher. Lots of athletes and coaches, and even fans, do.

I love to win too, and I enjoy watching the teams I cheer for win. Consequently, when the Denver Broncos, who I’ve been behind my entire adult life, went on a six-game winning streak, I was pretty happy. But the icing on the cake was that quarterback Tim Tebow, outspoken Christian, was engineering these victories, at least in part.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when the Broncos lost first to New England December 18, then to Buffalo last Saturday by the lopsided score of 40-14. Suddenly the march to the play-offs, led by the Christian kid who pundits were beginning to say was for real after all, was in serious doubt. But worse, Tim threw four interceptions, two that were run back for touchdowns. Tebow magic? Nowhere in sight.

But of course there never was any magic — just a young man playing hard, inspiring his teammates to do the same.

So what was his take on losing, especially two in a row, especially when he had such a bad game? From his press conference:

Something my mom taught me long ago, give the praise to the lord and give your disappointments to the lord, because that’s the number one way I can deal with it, because tomorrow I still get to celebrate my savior’s birth, and ultimately I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future and that’s something that gives me a lot of peace and a lot of comfort when there might be a lot of turbulence around me.

The sports wrap show I was watching aired the clip of Tim saying those lines, then the broadcaster sort of shook his head, and said, “Tim Tebow,” as if that’s all the explanation needed to make sense of something so unusual coming from an athlete programed to win.

But to Tim Tebow life is bigger than football, bigger than winning games. He sees the eternal picture and wants above all else to make an impact for Christ.

I wonder what would happen if more of us — bankers, waitresses, plumbers, librarians — would be as open about our faith as Tim Tebow is, win or lose.

Suddenly I don’t think that loss last Saturday was such a bad thing. Now fans know Tim isn’t a fair-weather Christian. Now reporters see how someone who believes Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior, not his ATM, responds to adversity.

If you’re interested, here’s the entire post-game interview. Pretty inspiring.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm  Comments Off on It’s Inspiring To Lose?  
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